Champions League | Manchester City and Leipzig advance; veterans Pepe and Giroud shine

Porto’s Pepe celebrates scoring his side’s second goal during a Champions League group H football match between Porto and Antwerp at Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Portugal, on November 7, 2023.

Porto’s Pepe celebrates scoring his side’s second goal during a Champions League group H football match between Porto and Antwerp at Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Portugal, on November 7, 2023.
| Photo Credit: AP

For European football veterans, it was a night to savor.

As Manchester City and Leipzig reached the knockout stage of the Champions League with two matches to spare on Tuesday, two emblematic players of Europe’s old guard grabbed the spotlight.

Already the oldest Champions League outfield player, veteran Porto defender Pepe became the oldest scorer in the Champions League history when he rose in the box and headed home his team’s second goal in a 2-0 win over Antwerp.

Pepe, who is 40 years, 254 days old, scored in stoppage time after Brazilian striker Evanilson put the hosts in front with a first-half goal.

“Today is a special day for me. It’s my mother’s birthday and I told her that I would do everything I could to score a goal,” Pepe said. “This feeling is incredible, because anyone who reaches this age playing at this level — representing a big club like Porto — knows it takes a lot of work, a lot of sacrifice, a tremendous passion for this sport. I’ll try to enjoy it as much as possible.”

The previous record was held by Roma’s Francesco Totti, who scored in Europe’s top club competition at age 38 years, 59 days in 2014.

Barcelona loses to Shakhtar

Porto has nine points and moved level with leader Barcelona, which lost 1-0 to Shakthar Donetsk in Group H’s other match.

A draw would have been enough to secure Barcelona a spot in the round of 16 for the first time after two straight eliminations in the group stage of Europe’s top club competition.

Danylo Sikan scored the winner with a header in the 40th minute in the game that Shakhtar hosted in Germany because of the war.

Barcelona had lost only once this season — to Real Madrid in the Spanish league “clasico” last month. It had no attempts on target through the first hour in Hamburg, and only one the entire match.

Giroud breaks Blanc’s record

At San Siro stadium, it was another veteran — Olivier Giroud — who was cheered by his teammates after AC Milan recorded its first win and first goals in this season’s Champions League to beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1.

Aged 37 years, 38 days, Giroud became the oldest French goalscorer in the competition, overtaking Laurent Blanc.

Rafael Leao scored Milan’s other goal and the result left the Group F wide open. Milan came from behind after conceding a ninth-minute opener from Milan Skriniar. Borussia Dortmund beat Newcastle 2-0 in the other match and now leads the group. The German team is a point above PSG, two above Milan and three above Newcastle.

Haaland scores brace

Manchester City kept its perfect record to advance from Group G with a 3-0 win against Young Boys. Erling Haaland scored two goals as City also extended its unbeaten home run in European soccer’s elite club tournament to 28 games. Phil Foden also netted.

German team Leipzig advanced with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Red Star Belgrade. Goals in either half from Xavi Simons and Loïs Openda ensured back-to-back victories for Leipzig over the Serbian champion, giving it nine points, three behind City. Both Red Star and Young Boys have one point and can no longer finish among the top two.

Immobile bags 200th Lazio goal

And in Group E, another experienced player was also on top of his game: 33-year-old Ciro Immobile scored his 200th goal with Lazio as the Roman club revived its hopes of advancing with a 1-0 win over Feyenoord.

The Lazio captain scored from a sharp angle after getting around the goalkeeper late in the first half at the Stadio Olimpico. Lazio moved into second place in Group E with seven points. Atletico Madrid tops the group with eight points after routing Celtic 6-0.

Dutch champion Feyenoord still has a chance in third with six points, while Celtic trails with one point.

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